2014 BMW X1 Crossover SUV Road Test and Review: Introduction
Traditional notions of what constitutes luxury have been turned upside-down in recent years, a trend reflected in the 2014 BMW X1, the 2014 Mercedes-Benz CLA-Class, and the upcoming 2015 Audi A3. In Europe and other global regions, these automakers sell a broader variety of vehicles than they do in the U.S., starting at more accessible prices. Americans, however, view vehicles wearing a blue-and-white roundel, a 3-pointed star, and quad chrome rings as luxury vehicles, as something better than the common Chevy, Kia, or Toyota that their neighbor drives, as a reward for academic or professional achievement, as a path to an upper-class lifestyle from a middle-class existence.
Nevertheless, these car companies need to expand their U.S. lineups, reaching farther down-market in order to capture younger, less affluent people in the hope that they will convert aspirational up-and-coming car buyers into lifetime loyalists. Rather than let these customers purchase a Camry and then step up to a Lexus, BMW and other premium European marques are planning to entice Generation Y with new models wearing a lower price.
In bringing the BMW X1 to America, the purveyor of ultimate driving machines also attempts to capitalize on insatiable desires for crossover suvs, endowing the X1 with the minimum requirements to qualify for membership in that vehicle class. It’s not really an SUV. And it’s not a luxury vehicle. But I’ll tell you this much: it’s pretty damn fun to drive.
2014 BMW X1 Crossover SUV Road Test and Review: Models and Prices
Skip every option, and you can buy a 2014 BMW X1 sDrive28i for $31,825, including the destination of $925. To this my Alpine White X1 added Sport Line trim ($1,900) and aluminum interior paneling ($500), for a grand total of $34,225. You’re not gonna find an X1 priced much lower than that. Go crazy with the options, and you’ll spend north of $50,000 for this entry-level Bimmer.
Here’s how the BMW X1 menu works. First, decide whether or not you want the standard turbocharged 4-cylinder engine or the optional turbocharged 6-cylinder engine. If you select the former, your next decision is whether or not you want rear-wheel drive or all-wheel drive (the turbocharged 6-cylinder is offered only with AWD). After that, elect to stick with standard trim or upgrade to the Sport Line, M Sport Line, or xLine trim levels, the former enhancing the X1’s naturally impressive driving dynamics and the latter installing a more outdoorsy appearance.
Once you’ve made these selections, it’s time to choose upgrade paint finishes, interior trims, and leatherette or leather seat upholstery. Several option packages are offered for the BMW X1, as well as stand-alone options and dealer-installed accessories. As a result, buyers can tailor the X1 to meet a variety of budgetary, appearance, performance, and technology requirements.
2014 BMW X1 Crossover SUV Road Test and Review: Design
- Coral Red leather now optional with M Sport Line models
There’s nothing wrong with the BMW X1’s exterior styling that a new set of headlights wouldn’t fix. They’re droopy and look like they’re wearing eye shadow. My test vehicle had the Sport Line appearance package, adding 18-inch aluminum wheels, glossy black exterior accents, aluminum exterior and interior trim, and manually adjustable front sport seats. Combined with the no-extra-charge Alpine White paint, it looked pretty good. For a BMW X1.
More than anything else about this vehicle, it is the interior that most clearly gives away the X1’s position as the least expensive BMW in the lineup. The company attempts to mask the stench of cheapness with cloth-wrapped windshield pillars, soft-touch material stretched over the dash and door panels, leatherette seats, optional aluminum trim, and a signature BMW new-car smell. The problem is that if you happen to drum your fingers on the instrument binnacle brow, or rap your knuckles on various parts of the cabin, the resulting sound is tinny, hollow, and dramatically lacking in substance.
2014 BMW X1 Crossover SUV Road Test and Review: Comfort and Cargo
- No changes
Thanks to the Sport Line trim package and the 10-way manually adjustable front seats with power bolstering, the BMW X1’s driving position proves excellent, placing the driver relatively close to the instrument panel and windshield for a more intimate connection with the vehicle and the road ahead, and gripping securely when rounding corners with enthusiasm. While the X1 is relatively small, taller drivers are likely to fit well. Seat track travel is generous enough that I actually needed to scoot the seat forward to find the right driving position, which simultaneously added space in the back for my kids.
Speaking of the X1’s rear seat, it’s not as comfortable as the front seats. The bottom cushion sits very low in the vehicle, no doubt to help provide as flat a load floor as is possible when the rear seatbacks are folded down. Knee space is snug against hard front seatback plastic, but foot room is generous. Smaller adults and kids have no trouble fitting into the X1.
For both sets of seats, entry and exit is simple and easy thanks to the X1’s taller ride height and higher seating hip points. The driver and passengers just slide in and slide out, making the X1 perfect for people with knee or back pain.
Another pleasant surprise is the X1’s relatively practical cargo space. With the rear seats in use, the X1 holds up to 25 cu.-ft. of your stuff. Fold the rear seats down to create 56 cu.-ft. of cargo space, a measurement that should prove moderately useful for IKEA runs. I like that the cargo floor has rubber straps to secure smaller cargo.
2014 BMW X1 Crossover SUV Road Test and Review: Features and Controls
- BMW TeleService is standard
- Harmon Kardon surround sound audio system now a stand-alone option
There’s not much to fiddle with in a basic X1, but the controls that do exist are somewhat unconventional in nature and require acclimation to use. From the center-return turn signal lever and myriad manual seat adjusters to the funky radio controls and joystick shift lever, it takes plenty of seat time to make the X1 work without thinking about it. If nothing else, at least BMW puts things in the general vicinity of where you expect to find them.
The X1’s shift lever bugged me, mainly because on two occasions I accidently bumped the X1 into Neutral gear while driving down the freeway, but also because there seems to be no space savings in exchange for using such a design. This transmission selector takes up just as much room as a conventional gated shifter would, but is far less intuitive to use.
By far, though, the worst thing about driving the X1 is that a driver wearing polarized sunglasses can’t see the information on the radio display. Let me just say that nobody wants me behind the wheel if I don’t have prescription glasses or sunglasses on, so for me this particular aspect of the X1’s control layout was a glaring fault in an already quirky cabin.
2014 BMW X1 Crossover SUV Road Test and Review: Safety and Ratings
- BMW Assist eCall standard with 10-year free subscription
In addition to a typical suite of airbags, anti-lock brakes, and traction and stability control systems, the 2014 BMW X1 is equipped with rain-sensing wipers and BMW Assist eCall service with a free 10-year subscription to Automatic Collision Notification and an SOS button that activates an Emergency Request feature.
Beyond these standard features, the X1 can be optioned with a reversing camera, parking assist sensors, automatic high-beam headlights, and an Adaptive Light Control system. If you’re looking for anything more sophisticated than this, such as a forward collision warning system, a lane departure warning system, or a blind spot information system, you’ll need to shop elsewhere.
2014 BMW X1 Crash-Test Ratings:
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has not performed crash tests on the 2014 BMW X1. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) has crashed the X1, and gives it the top rating of “Good” in all assessments except for the small overlap frontal-impact test, for which the X1 rates “Marginal.” That rating, combined with a lack of collision prevention technology, means that the X1 doesn’t meet the criteria for a “Top Safety Pick” or “Top Safety Pick+” rating.
2014 BMW X1 Crossover SUV Road Test and Review: Engines and Fuel Economy
- No changes
For the 2014 X1, BMW offers a choice between two engines and two drivetrains. Models with rear-wheel drive are labeled “sDrive” and versions equipped with the optional xDrive all-wheel-drive system wear, appropriately, an “xDrive” badge.
Choose the standard direct-injected, turbocharged 2.0-liter 4-cylinder engine, which makes 240 horsepower between 5,000 rpm and 6,500 rpm, and 260 lb.-ft. of torque from 1,250 rpm to 4,800 rpm, and the 3,527-pound X1 sDrive28i accelerates to 60 mph in 6.5 seconds, burning premium unleaded fuel in the process. An 8-speed automatic transmission is standard, and includes Normal, Sport, and Manual shift modes as well as Adaptive Transmission Control. Paddle shifters are included with the optional sports steering wheel.
BMW’s xDrive AWD system is optional with this engine, and both the sDrive28i and xDrive28i include a fuel-saving automatic stop/start feature as well as Driving Dynamics Control with Eco Pro, Comfort, and Sport settings. The automatic stop/start system is fairly rudimentary in terms of its operation, and when it re-starts the engine, the turbocharged 4-cylinder idles like a diesel. Fuel economy ratings are 27 mpg in combined driving for the sDrive28i, while the xDrive28i is expected to return 26 mpg. I extracted 24 mpg from my sDrive28i test vehicle, with half of the miles covered on the highway.
As an upgrade, buyers can choose the X1 xDrive35i model, which commands a $7,900 premium in exchange for greater power and performance, a standard xDrive AWD system, and more standard features. This model’s turbocharged 3.0-liter 6-cylinder engine generates 300 horsepower at 5,800 rpm and 300 lb.-ft. of torque from 1,300 rpm to 5,000 rpm, delivering 60 mph in just 5.3 seconds, according to BMW.
The X1 xDrive35i has a 6-speed automatic transmission in place of the xDrive28i model’s 8-speed automatic, and it does not include automatic stop/start technology, or an Eco Pro drivetrain setting. Evidently, BMW figures that if you opt for the larger, more powerful engine that you’re not terribly interested in conserving fuel. And the 21-mpg rating in combined driving, plastered prominently on the window sticker, should make it clear that anyone wanting to maximize fuel economy ought to stick with the standard 2.0-liter turbo.
2014 BMW X1 Crossover SUV Road Test and Review: Driving Impressions
If the BMW X1 isn’t luxurious, and if the BMW X1 isn’t particularly good at delivering value, nobody can deny that it excels at plastering a smile on a driver’s face. This is a genuinely entertaining vehicle to drive, no matter the type of road. And, like most German vehicles, it masks velocity to such an extent as to endanger the driver’s license of even the most law-abiding owner. In my experience, the X1 feels like it’s doing about 50 mph when the speedometer reads 80 mph. Here’s a bit of sound advice: skip the attention-grabbing Valencia Orange paint job.
Given the turbocharged 4-cylinder engine’s acceleration times, it clearly delivers more than enough oomph for this size vehicle, and while there is a hint of lag right off the line, the generous and broad power curve ensures unrelenting responsiveness once the X1 is moving.
Operation of the transmission’s joystick-style lever becomes second nature to an owner; people new to the design are utterly befuddled at first. The transmission includes Drive, Drive Sport, and manual modes, and paddle shifters are available as an option. Once underway, the transmission upshifts quickly, exhibiting subtle delays between gears and slight evidence of rev matching when downshifting. Owners can push the Eco Pro button on the dashboard to maximize fuel economy, but I left the X1 in regular Drive mode most of the time and averaged 24 mpg.
Electric steering is direct, precise, and responsive. However, it stiffens unnaturally when taking corners, and in inconsistent fashion. The thick-rimmed, leather-wrapped, tilt/telescopic steering wheel feels really good in the driver’s hands.
Suspension tuning is taut, and over broken pavement the underpinnings transmit way too much crashing noise to the cabin – for a luxury-priced vehicle, anyway. I did not experience much of this in SoCal, leaving me with a more favorable opinion than might be generated in parts of the country where potholes and frost heaves are the norm rather than the exception.
The BMW X1 sDrive28i is the best-balanced version of this crossover SUV, boasting a near-perfect 49.4/50.6 weight distribution. Roll is minimal, grip is maximal, and the rear-driver’s tail is well behaved. Like most BMWs, the X1 fosters an intimate connection between man, machine, and macadam, though perhaps not quite as viscerally as Bimmers once did.
It is the combination of handling, grip, turbocharged power, and communication with the road that makes the BMW X1 sDrive28i so much fun to drive, and these traits, more than anything, are the most significant selling points of this crossover SUV.
2014 BMW X1 Crossover SUV Road Test and Review: Final Thoughts
If you’re considering the lease or purchase of a 2014 BMW X1, keep the following things in mind:
1.) This is not a luxurious vehicle, even though it wears a luxurious vehicle price tag. Neither is it refined.
2.) This is not a crossover SUV, even though it wears an “X” designation in its name, which denotes BMW’s sports-activity vehicles.
3.) This is not a particularly roomy vehicle, though it is surprisingly practical and BMW has done an admirable job of carving out a comfortable and useful space within its rather diminutive dimensions.
Therefore, if you are looking for luxury and refinement, or the high-riding outward visibility of an SUV, or lots of extra interior space for people and things, this vehicle is likely to disappoint. But if you really love to drive, and you want a competent tool for that activity, one that provides extra cargo space for when you need it, then a BMW X1 deserves consideration.
2014 BMW X1 Crossover SUV Road Test and Review: Pros and Cons
- Fun to drive
- Low price tag
- Generous utility
- Comfortable front sport seats
- Significant price premium given lack of luxury
- Rudimentary automatic stop/start system
- Funky interior ergonomics
- “Marginal” IIHS crash-test rating
BMW supplied the vehicle for this review
2014 BMW X1 sDrive28i photos by Christian Wardlaw